All meeting minutes posted on the township website are unofficial minutes. Official copies of minutes may be obtained from the township clerk.
Minutes: January 30, 2021
A. OPENING OF BUDGET MEETING
1. Call to Order
A budget meeting of the Randolph Township Council was called to order at 8:30 a.m. by Mayor Forstenhausler. This meeting is held pursuant to the New Jersey Open Public Meetings Act. Adequate and electronic notice of the amended meeting scheduled has been provided by posting written notice of the time, date, location, and to the extent known, the agenda of the meeting in Randolph Township. This notice was posted on the Bulletin Board within Town Hall, on the main entrance doors to Town Hall, it was filed with the Township Clerk, and it was provided to those persons or entities requesting notification. Notice was also provided to the Randolph Reporter, the Morris County Daily Record and TapInto Randolph on January 25, 2021, by emailing them the amended annual resolution adopted by the Council on January 21, 2021. The amended annual resolution, which includes this meeting date, was advertised in the Randolph Reporter, the official newspaper of the Township of Randolph and the Daily Record on January 28, 2021.
2. Roll Call
Deputy Mayor Potter
Also present: Township Manager Mountain, Wayne Corsey, Russ Newman, and Tom Sweeney
3. Pledge of Allegiance
Mayor Forstenhausler led the Pledge of Allegiance.
Mayor Forstenhausler explained that the township’s annual budget was the most important item the Council works on with the Manager and Township Chief Financial Officer (CFO). He stated that being able to hold this year’s budget meeting in person, with social distancing and health safety measures, was beneficial for the process as it enabled the Council to get a clear understanding of each part of the budget. He reminded members of the public to maintain social distancing and to wear their face coverings.
B. OPEN TO THE PUBLIC
Seeing and hearing none, the public portion was closed.
C. DEPARTMENT BUDGET PRESENTATIONS
Manager Mountain introduced the proposed 2021 Municipal Budget. He informed the Council that the preparation of this year’s budget and the closure of 2020’s financial activities were unprecedented. The pandemic and its associated impacts affected nearly every part of the township’s municipal operation over the past ten months. In the face of these challenges, the community and organization responded together and managed to get through these difficult months and be ready for what is to come.
He and Township CFO Darren Maloney have prepared a budget that accounts for the uncertain costs that have and continue to result from the pandemic and maintains their commitment to prudent fiscal management. He stated that he believed the proposed draft budget addressed the organization’s major needs and achieved the goal of maintaining a stable tax levy without sacrificing the future.
He commended Darren Maloney for his efforts in preparing the budget and for the work he had done over the past year, in terms of keeping an eye out for indicators and making recommendations on certain actions that allowed the township to finish the year in a good position. He also recognized the township staff for their cooperation in assisting with the budget by practicing fiscal discipline and creativity with how they approached their bottom line, adapted their requests, and met a handful of various challenges to continue to allow the municipality to offer services.
He explained that the draft was a working document designed to spark discussion; it can be changed based upon the work the Council and staff will be doing over the next several weeks. All the expense line items have been reviewed, verified, and challenged with department heads; all revenue categories are based upon prior year actual collections with the exception of state aid, which is a projection—assumed to be level—though no change is anticipated.
There was a brief discussion on the distribution of state aid received for the pandemic.
He reported that the Operating Budget for 2021 called for an appropriation of $32,171,286; a decrease of 1.19% or 388,173 from the adopted 2020 budget. As proposed, the draft budget is within the state levy cap limit and will not require an increase in the municipal tax rate. The budget contains no service reductions and features continued investments in several key areas of infrastructure. He noted that staffing levels are proposed to remain at the same levels as 2020. The township continues to build upon 2020’s strong financial position which was enabled by the Council’s conservative fiscal policies and continued property tax collection despite the pandemic.
He referred to Darren Maloney to provide a brief overview of the 2020 Statement of Operations.
Mr. Maloney informed the Council that in his 30 years of experience with this process, this was the most challenging year he ever had. He stated that the township worked day-to-day not knowing what would be faced, but in typical Randolph fashion, the community and organization weathered the storm. He explained that the township’s fund balance as of December 31, 2020, was $7,679,368 vs. the balance at the end of 2019, which was $7,357,954. He informed the Council that some cuts to appropriations and certain accounts payable had to be made in addition to canceling reserve. He stated that the township was in a good position moving forward.
Manager Mountain explained the cost drivers:
Salaries and Wages -
- Salary and wages overall are up $101,404 or 0.99%. The increase in this cost center, however, is quite modest considering it is the largest component of the annual budget, comprising approximately 32% of total expenditures.
- Managing this cost center has been a critical part of the Township’s efforts to maintaining budgetary stability. The relatively small increase in this line item can be attributed to a number of factors, most notably, strong efforts to collectively bargain union contracts, personnel changes resulting in salary reductions in key positions, and the maintenance of the full-time headcount at current staffing levels
- Recycling in 2021 continues to remain an area of the budget in which expenses are increasing. Once an area in which the town could “sell” collected materials to offset hauling costs, the town now must pay to have much of the collected recycled materials transferred to market recyclers. The proposed budget anticipates an additional $78,700 in recycling expenses to cover the contracted disposal cost.
Councilwoman Veech asked if encouraging residents to recycle more and advertising to drive water, recycling, and garbage would prevent issues with expenditures because of the differences in cost. Manager Mountain informed her that every ton of solid waste is a savings for the town. When examining the recycling line item from an overall budgetary standpoint, the township does better with more recycling. He informed Councilwoman Veech that the township’s tonnage for recycling has gone up consistently. Mayor Forstenhausler asked what the difference was between what the township pays for in solid waste tonnage as opposed to recycling. Manager Mountain informed him that there is a difference of under $50 per ton.
Mayor Forstenhausler asked how the solid waste and recycling contracts with Blue Diamond had been affected this past year. Manager Mountain informed him that the way the township contracts are set up on the recycling side is that the township is responsible for the cost associated with the collection, not the cost of its disposal; Blue Diamond is tied to the cost of the disposal for garbage.
Mayor Forstenhausler clarified by stating that this past year even though solid waste disposal from residents had gone up, it did not cost the township additional money because the hauler had to cover the cost; it was the recycling going up that additionally cost the township.
Councilwoman Veech asked Manager Mountain what the incentive was for the garbage haulers to pick recycling. She explained that on some occasions she has seen garbage pickup also collecting recycling pickup at her property and at other homes in the community. She asked him what the incentive was for the hauler to do that. Manager Mountain informed her that the hauler would have no incentive to pick up the recycling with the garbage as it would cost the hauler more money. He did not believe that this was an excessive trend because the numbers would have indicated if this was going on across town.
Mayor Forstenhausler restated that if residents increase the tonnage of recycling, and lessen the tonnage of solid waste, it costs the township more money because the township pays the tonnage on recycling and the tonnage on the solid waste is included with the contract at no extra cost. He added that he was not saying that this was bad, but it does end up costing the township more money.
Manager Mountain replied that it does and does not. He explained that in the long run the township pays for the solid waste disposal based on its estimated tonnage; it is locked in short term contract. The township is not locked in for what is being paid for recycling.
Councilman Nisivoccia asked if recycling being brought to the recycling center cost the town less. Manager Mountain responded that he would check on that; he stated that the materials were all going to the same market and that the material cost was what contributed more towards the value, whether it is being collected from the recycling center or from someone else.
- The response to the COVID-19 pandemic will continue to generate expenses in the 2021 budget. Key areas of expense include an increase in personnel costs (additional hours for part-time nurses and other non-salaried members of the health department), personnel protective equipment and sanitization product purchase, equipment purchases to support township support of the vaccination roll-out, and other expenses related to the mitigation of disease spread.
- The projected expenses in the 2021 proposed budget for COVID-19 response may all end up being reimbursed through Federal or State grant funding. Until such funding is received the costs must be included as a local expense. To mitigate the impact of these expenses we will continue to utilize the snow reserve (as permitted by state directive) as a source of funding.
Councilwoman Veech asked how much the township spent in response to COVID-19. Manager Mountain informed her that the township spent about $350,000 and received back $250,000. He does not know if the township will be spending the same amount this year or what can be expected to be given back. He briefly discussed how the township was able to utilize the snow fund reserve to aid with costs.
Liability and Group Insurance -
- The insurance line items in the proposed budget will again be an area of reduction and not increase. The township’s participation in the Morris Municipal Employee Liability Fund (JIF) has helped maintain property/casualty insurance costs at a manageable level for decades. However, the primary driver behind the lower impact of this cost center in this year’s budget is health insurance. This year’s budget anticipates an overall decrease of 1.06% in the Group Health insurance line item.
Professional Service Fees -
- To mitigate the financial impact of COVID-19 on the 2021 budget, the Township Council worked aggressively with all township professionals (including the various municipal attorneys and Township Consulting Engineer) to secure agreement to hold contractual retainers and hourly rates flat for the year. This action enabled a flat line item for all professional service costs in the proposed budget.
Statutory Charges -
- Statutory Charges have increased 6.60%, which is driven by a 6.29% increase in the Township PFRS employer obligation and a 12.44% increase in the PERS obligation. The DCRP appropriation has increased from $18,000 in 2020 to $20,000 in 2021. These increases were mandated by the State, which manages these programs.
Capital Outlay -
- The Capital Outlay budget is utilized for acquiring lower cost equipment, automobiles and for smaller facility improvement projects. This budget line item, which fluctuates from year to year, is proposed to increase by 42.69% in 2021. The primary driver in this cost center is automobiles.
Capital Improvement Fund -
- The funding for the capital program expenses is proposed to decrease by 32.82% in 2021. The decrease is by design. This year the capital requests were reviewed carefully and wherever discretionary expenses could be reduced or deferred such action was taken to balance the proposed budget.
- The capital requests included in the 2021 capital program reflect the continued goal of aggressively funding infrastructure improvements such as roads, retaining walls and facilities. The majority of these improvements are being funded in cash and some budgetary impact is being absorbed by the used of surplus on these one-time expenditures.
Manager Mountain explained the revenue drivers:
State Aid -
- Assistance from the state continues to be frozen at prior year’s levels. Confirmation of the aid commitment for 2021has not yet been received; it is projected that it will not decline. As a result State Aid will remain a very small portion of the revenues supporting the budget in 2021 (5.74%).
Local Fees, Permits & Interest -
- Local revenues as a whole were down in 2020 due to the pandemic, however, not every area of local revenue declined. In response, 2021 budgeting for local revenue collection is a mix of projected revenue increases and decreases. Fees associated with development and construction came in near all-time highs in the past year, and based upon the indicators we are seeing revenue collections in these areas are expected to remain strong in 2021.
- Revenue collection from Municipal Court fines and recreation programs/activities were severely impacted by the pandemic, and these revenues are expected to remain low in 2021. If revenues in this area are realized in excess of budgeted amounts the excess collections will only help our financial position going into future years.
- Surplus is generated from several sources including:
- Lapsing budget appropriation reserves (2019 budget)
- Local income in excess of anticipated amounts
- Reserve for uncollected taxes (2020 budget)
- Ratable base growth in the form of added and omitted taxes collected
- Cancellation of current year appropriations
The 2021 budget calls for a use of $5,565,589 in support of the budget, which is equal to the prior year. The Township’s surplus balance is up slightly from 2020, a result of our planned effort to manage surplus at a reasonable level. Surplus accounts for 17.30% of the 2021 budget.
Delinquent Taxes -
- Revenue from delinquent taxes continues to remain low as a result of excellent collection experience. The budget anticipates $550,000 or 1.71% of the Township’s revenues from this category in 2020.
2021 Municipal Taxes -
- The balance of the budget, $21,167,093 or 65.80% of required revenue is anticipated from the 2021 municipal tax (including the library levy).
Manager Mountain reviewed the 2021 Water and Sewer Funds:
- The township maintains separate accounts for both the water fund and the sewer funds.
- The Water fund continues to benefit from the rate increase approved by the Council in 2019 which stabilized the fund and ended a several year decline in revenues.
- The Water fund ended 2020 with a fund balance of $687,072. The 2021 budget allocates $3,888,927 for the operation of Randolph’s public water system.
- The sewer budget is proposed at $4,045,409. The sewer fund maintains a healthy fund balance of $10,127,772, representing a 7.6077% decrease from 2020.
- As has been noted in previous years, this fund balance has been maintained at an intentionally high level to support the debt service associated with the Butterworth Improvement project, as well as hedging against the possible impact of an adverse outcome from the on-going Jersey City-RVRSA litigation.
Councilwoman Veech asked if the worst-case scenario of the RVRSA litigation could wipe out the entire amount of the fund balance. Mr. Maloney explained why the line items had the allocated figures. He stated that the sewer fund ended with a balance of just over $10 million; the fund balance remains artificially high to ensure cushion in anticipation of the finalization of the pending litigations and to support the debt service pay-down.
Mayor Forstenhausler clarified, stating that if the RVRSA case is a loss, the township would not pay a net total of $1.4 million; instead, it would be $1.4 million a year. Manager Mountain explained that they are over budgeting for the annual payout in the event of a loss. Councilman Loveys added that these funds were why the township was able to conduct transfers at the end of the year.
Manager Mountain prepared to introduce the budget presentations for this meeting. He asked if the Council had any questions for him before proceeding.
Councilman Loveys referred back to the COVID-19 equipment expenses; he asked if it was presumable that at some point the township’s health department would be able to administer vaccines, and would some of the expenses be for particular items such as freezers. Manager Mountain stated that when the vaccine becomes plentiful the township will have the ability to help as a point of availability, though it is currently unknown.
1. Parks and Recreation—Russ Newman
Russ Newman reviewed the operating expenses for Parks and Recreation.
He briefly summarized the work the department had accomplished throughout 2020 and the COVID-19 pandemic. These accomplishments included providing multiple community services for seniors and quarantined families in Randolph, library book delivery, food distribution, and meeting state mandates and guidelines to resume recreation sports and activities. By responding appropriately to the state mandates the department was able to hold various seasonal activities and sports. Notable recreation activities included the holding of two drive-in movie screenings, a successful community garden season, the Randolph Rompers program, maintaining the township trails, the dedication of Veterans Community Park, and the opening of the Randolph Beach.
Councilman Loveys asked what the visitor numbers for the Randolph beach were like typically before the pandemic. Mr. Newman explained that the beach typically had 400-500 people visit daily. Councilman Loveys asked if there was a cut off for the attendance. Mr. Newman informed him that the cut off relied on parking space availability.
Mr. Newman reviewed his Capital Budget request for 2021.
Capital Budget Highlights:
- Department Salaries—includes professional staff, park staff, and staff working for various programs and recreational facilities such as the Artworks Studio and the Randolph Beach.
- Park Maintenance—main drive for the increase in funding levels is due to the addition of Veterans Community Park.
- Operating Expenses—includes printing and publicity, professional development, coaches training, registration, and utilities.
- Support of Leagues and Self Sustaining Programs—biggest revenue drivers; as a result of COVID-19, the numbers are unlike any other year. The self sustaining programs are designed to cover their own costs, but due to the budget cycle, expenses were incurred. He explained that costs were incurred and not recuperated for some of the programs due to cancellations; fees were credited back to participants. Other programs succeeded in generating revenue; it is a balancing act.
Councilwoman Veech asked about the Tamarac payment note in the Parks, Recreation and Community Services Proposed Operating Budget. Darren Maloney informed her that Tamarac payments used to be included with the recreation budget as a line item. In 2018, the township started pulling the item out from there; it is in the books as a revenue line item. Mr. Newman added that the township was still collecting the item; it just was not being collected as part of his revenue.
Mr. Newman briefly reviewed the capital improvement program. He discussed the various installations at township parks and facilities, outstanding Parks and Recreation projects and future park improvements.
- Brundage Park Complex—general improvements to Brundage Park Playhouse, improvements to the dressing room and restroom, bungalow demolition, and lighting replacement.
- Freedom Park—field lighting, baseball field drainage and crossing/overflow parking improvements. There is existing funding already set aside for the baseball field drainage.
- Heistein Park—general improvements and pond parking improvements.
- Randolph Park—ball field lighting, Rosenfarb Basketball Court improvements.
- General Park Improvements
- Trail Improvements
- Emergent Tree Removal—trails—storms from the past few years have taken trees down and ash trees need to be removed for safety after a certain time.
- ADA Improvements
- Other General Improvements
Councilman Loveys referred to the tree removal item; he wanted to confirm if depending on the location of the trees in the woods they would be left in place. Mr. Newman confirmed that he was correct.
Councilman Loveys inquired about the total number of bungalows at the Brundage Park Complex. Mr. Newman informed him that there were four bungalows left. A brief discussion about the bungalows was held.
Councilwoman Veech asked about the status of the Brundage Park Playhouse improvements. Mr. Newman informed her that the improvements could be examined from the general improvements fund and reserve fund. The reserve was being used for the dressing room improvements, and potential expansions or renovations of the Brundage building itself. The general improvements fund has been used to complete improvements such as the seating project and will be used this year to install ADA doors at the theater. He shared that due to COVID-19, other projects were put aside because they were not considered a higher priority during the pandemic. He discussed briefly the future electric work planned for the building and the costs for general renovations.
Mayor Forstenhausler asked Mr. Newman if he had a rough idea of what the cost would be for moving the electric panels at Brundage. Mr. Newman stated that he was aware of the figure, but could not say off the top of his head. He would provide the information from his report.
Mr. Newman shared that he met with the professionals working on the ball field lighting. In anticipation of the potential electric work that will occur down the road, they discussed relocating the field lighting outside to where the snack stand is at present. By moving the lighting it would prevent the need to tear the work down and relocate the lights in 5 or 10 years. He stated that the department was trying to anticipate the work that could be done now, so later it would not be an issue.
Councilman Loveys asked if that was why the Brundage section of the Capital Improvement Program was broken down and formatted the way it was. Mr. Newman confirmed. Manager Mountain briefly explained how the funds were being broken down for this year. Mr. Newman added that for some items, certain figures are used as placeholders as the department moves forward with projects.
Councilwoman Carey asked about the progress of the Artworks Studio design project. Mr. Newman informed her that the design process started in March; the department received feedback from the instructors on what they were looking for in the space. They have an idea of the number of studios, bathrooms, and storage for space. The location still has to be determined. At this point, they are finalizing what they are looking for, i.e. the size, and from there they would discuss where it would be located.
Manager Mountain added that the township will be hiring an architect to aid with the development of the facility’s design. He shared that the best approach for designing, as well as for determining location, was coming up with a range of options and reconvening with the appropriate committee to evaluate and discuss. He stated that it would be ideal to come out of 2021 with a clear idea of where the studio would be going and what the concept for the facility would be.
Councilman Nisivoccia asked how many classrooms were currently in the Artworks Studio. Mr. Newman informed him that there were two. Before COVID-19, the studio would have a maximum of 12-14 children in each class. The hope is that classes will resume in April with a limit of 6 people per class. He added that there was no room for additional expansion and that the department is looking into putting in additional storage to keep classrooms cleaner.
Councilman Nisivoccia asked what was upstairs in the current building. He was informed that there was an office/attic area, though it was not accessible.
Mayor Forstenhausler mentioned that he has seen a constant flow of cars at the studio; he asked how many classes were being packed in at the studio and how much more capacity the facility required. Mr. Newman explained that it reflected on the programs that the department currently runs and the summer camps as well.
Councilwoman Veech asked if the department was considering the installation of a kiln. Mr. Newman informed her that he has gone back and forth with instructors on that. The instructors are not sure yet because there is a whole other set of concerns that need to be considered with a kiln.
Councilwoman Veech asked if a survey would be conducted to learn of resident needs or wants at the facility. Manager Mountain stated that the plan is to design a building that will have the flexibility to do most things. He recommended that the process not be opened to residents to design the operational functions of the facility. He explained that the process would be left to the instructors and the committee to design a facility that has the potential to accommodate a lot.
Councilwoman Veech explained that she was referring to programming. Mr. Newman informed her that they would look into it for the next master plan, as they are currently mid-way through the planning.
There was a brief discussion on department vehicles and equipment. Mr. Newman discussed vehicle purchases, replacement of work-men, equipment attachments, the purchasing of a snow pusher and generator.
Mayor Forstenhausler asked about the use of the generator. Mr. Newman informed him that the department currently has two generators; one is used to power the facilities at Heistein Park in the event of outages, the other is brought to wherever it is needed. Mayor Forstenhausler inquired about the size of the generator; Mr. Newman informed him that they are looking at 6500 Watts.
Councilman Loveys referred back to the snow pusher. He asked if the township had one currently and if the purchase of the new pusher would be replacing the current one. Mr. Newman informed him that the Parks Department did not have one; he explained that when the snow pusher is needed, its use is required in multiple areas at a time. Councilman Loveys asked if the township had anything similar to the snow pusher to use. Mr. Newman confirmed that there was not; Mayor Forstenhausler added that the department already had the major parts for the attachments. Mr. Newman explained that they were not trying to take away from the DPW’s operations by using needed equipment to add to their operations.
Councilwoman Carey asked if the basketball nets at Rosenfarb Park were being replaced; she also asked if the park was near where the habitat for humanity homes would be located. Manager Mountain informed her that it would be adjacent to the habitat homes. Over the next few years, improvements will likely be made at the park.
Councilwoman Veech inquired about the status of the dog park. Mr. Newman informed her that the old equipment at the park was replaced with new composite playground equipment. The bench slats at the park were also replaced. His department has worked with the Water & Sewer Department to make sure water was turned on and available at the park. He stated that topics related to expanding or relocating the dog park in the future would likely be discussed in a future master plan. Manager Mountain explained the benefits of planning for those types of projects through master plan development.
Councilwoman Veech commended Mr. Newman for doing an excellent job this year. The remaining Council members echoed her comments.
D. BREAK—10:00 a.m.
The Council took a short break.
E. DEPARTMENT BUDGET PRESENTATIONS
1. Public Works—Tom Sweeney
Tom Sweeney reviewed the operating expenses for Public Works with the Council. He also reviewed his Capital Improvement budget request for 2021.
- The department showed a 0% increase in the Operating Budget. He explained that the department has some deductions for the street and road line items.
- Drainage—minor increase for drainage. The department did quite a bit of in-house drainage work over the year.
- Street Sweeping Disposal—now that the department has a new street sweeper, they intend to sweep more. He informed the Council that the cost for the vendor accepting the street sweepings was higher than the previous vendor being used; this caused an increase in that line item, though it is not by much.
- Street Signs—there is a slight increase for this item. This year the Sign Department at the DPW has been working 3-4 days a week to make signage for the town in response to COVID-19. They made signs for the municipal building, and at the parks and recreation facilities. He added that making sings in-house reduced outside expense.
- He stated that overall the department was very stable.
Councilwoman Veech inquired about the catch basins at Shongum Lake; she asked what the process for cleaning the basins entailed and what conditions the township basins were in. Mr. Sweeney informed her that the new street sweeper would become a big benefit for the process. The department will utilize the sweeper’s vacuum attachment to clean the basins more efficiently. Mr. Sweeney explained that the program for cleaning the basins consisted of going from one side of the township to the next to conduct a major cleaning. There are roughly 2,200 basins in the town; the department cleared 176 basins this year.
Councilman Loveys asked how many individuals were required for the operation. Mr. Sweeney informed him that the street sweeper would allow the process to become a two-man operation. He informed the Council that eventually the department will get into the process of documenting and developing a rating system, once the basins are clean, to determine which basins require a major or minor repair. He added that deterioration was likely due to old age.
Mayor Forstenhausler asked about the status of the retention basins. Mr. Sweeney informed him that they were doing very well with the basins; currently, they are in the phase of identifying them. There are 79 retention basins in the township, 59 of them have been identified on GIS; the department has utilized tablets to get data in real-time while out in the field. He also shared that they are in the process of rating those basins as well. Manager Mountain added that the Township Engineering/Water & Sewer Administrator had an updated map on the basins.
Mayor Forstenhausler asked if the department planned to keep the old street sweeper as a backup for occasional use. Mr. Sweeney explained that the department has been using the old sweeper as a backup. Over the past year, parts of the old sweeper had to be fabricated which made it unusable for almost half a year; the old sweeper was able to survive through leaf season as a backup. They are hoping to get through this year with the old sweeper as a backup again because the volume for leaf collection is so great.
Councilman Nisivoccia asked if the basin maintenance could be put on a rotating plan to get serviced every few years. Mr. Sweeney explained that the extent of repair for basins varied depending on their location, planned work in the area, and the extent of the service they required; he continued to provide various examples.
- Fleet Maintenance—no increase in this item; the shop did very well this year.
Councilman Loveys inquired about the number of mechanics working in the fleet. Mr. Sweeney informed him that there were three mechanics and a foreman mechanic. Councilman Loveys asked how many were working for the Board of Education (BOE). Mr. Sweeney informed him that the bus side had two full-time mechanics; the BOE has approx. 47 buses, the mechanics also do some of the work for BOE school vehicles such as the pickup trucks.
Councilwoman Veech asked about the number of vehicles he reported as being serviced by the department. Mr. Sweeney explained that the figure included various vehicles such as pickup trucks, dump trucks, loaders, department vehicles for the municipal building, ambulance, fire department, parks and recreation department, and police. The department also services and maintains equipment such as lawnmowers, weed whackers, and blowers. He explained that the department determines when maintenance is needed by using data technology that tracks mileage, fuel pumps, and other indication marks on each vehicle.
- Snow Removal—in a good place with this item; includes rock salt, and liquid calcium costs. The rock salt expense has been coming down; through the township’s co-op they are now paying $52.25 per ton. He added that last year was a relatively light year for salt use, so he did not find himself having to increase the expense there. The department has come up a little bit on liquids.
Deputy Mayor Potter asked how much the department’s budget allotted for snow. Mr. Sweeney explained that since December, the department purchased $94,200 worth of salt. He stated that they typically estimate an average of 15 - 17 snow events for the season. Though not all these events are plowable, the majority require salt and lots of material use. He informed the Council that the DPW has materials in stock to handle three or four consecutive events.
Mayor Forstenhausler asked if the department backed off on liquid applications prior to snow events. Mr. Sweeney informed him that the department does it when the conditions are favorable.
Councilwoman Veech asked if the department was low in their rock salt reserve as the township only spent $15,000 for rock salt as estimated expenditures. Mr. Sweeney responded that they are well stocked; he briefly explained how the department used unspent expenditures throughout the years to draw from now.
Councilman Loveys asked if the current fund in the Trust Reserve Balance was the amount totaled after COVID-19 expenses and reimbursement. Darren Maloney confirmed and explained how COVID-19 spending and the trust reserve for snow removal worked.
- Recycling—the DPW and Health Department works hand in hand to deliver recycling center services. The main services provided by the department include leaf collection and branch collection.
Manager Mountain informed the Council that Mark Caputo, the Township Health Officer, would be providing a report on traditional recycling during the next budget meeting on February 4, 2021.
Mayor Forstenhausler asked if the Ash tree removals being undertaken by residents and JCP&L would affect the leaf collection; he wondered if the removal of trees would decrease the volume. Mr. Sweeney explained that the department anticipated that there would be a spike in collections as materials come in. He explained how that may change in the future, and briefly reviewed how Ash trees and wildlife impact the collection process. There was a brief discussion on the removal of Ash trees in the spring and the labor process involved.
Mayor Forstenhausler asked if Mr. Sweeney knew why various trees on Mountainside Road were marked, he wondered if this was the DPW’s doing or a power company’s. Mr. Sweeney informed him that it could partially be the DPW. He explained how the DPW and various organizations mark trees for removal.
Councilwoman Veech asked Mr. Sweeney to review the DPW’s seasonal projects. Mr. Sweeney informed her that many of their projects are carried out as the weather permits. Presently the department has worked on small tree removals, catch basin cleaning, and catch basin repair. He explained that snow storms take up a great deal of time for clearing the roads and cleaning the equipment; there is constant work in the season. In the spring the department continues basin work, pot hole patching, and crack sealing, in addition to spring branch collection. During the summer similar work is done. In the fall, the department tries to accomplish as much basin work, pot-hole patching, and crack sealing before leaf season arrives, as the focus then shifts to completing leaf collection before snow hits the area.
Councilman Nisivoccia asked Darren Maloney why the Leaf Hauling 2020 Estimated Expenditure item read as $35K. Mr. Maloney responded that it was a typo; the amount should be $135K.
Mayor Forstenhausler asked if there were any problems with the new leaf hauling contractor. Manager Mountain informed him that there were no issues.
Mr. Sweeney reported the following on Capital Outlay:
- Loader Bucket with Grapple & Mesh Guard 416 style—attachment will be used for curbside branch and leaf collection. The design is newly improved with a larger holding capacity that will improve efficiency by increasing daily production. Item will be purchased through the ESCNJ Co-op.
Mayor Forstenhausler asked how many attachments the department was requesting. Mr. Sweeney informed him that they were requesting one.
- Insulation for building #5 at Public Works Facility—building #5 is 5400 square feet with 8 bay doors; it houses the DPW loaders, roll-off trucks and the new jet-vacuum truck. Currently the building is the only facility large enough to store the jet-vacuum truck which must be stored in a heated garage. The expense will be for the material and labor to install the insulation.
Councilwoman Veech asked why the jet-vacuum truck required a heated garage. Mr. Sweeney informed her that in cold temperatures the vehicle’s hydraulic fluids, diesel fluids, and the battery would be affected and would take a half-hour or so to get that piece of equipment warmed up to take on the road. He stated that during winter events the department cannot wait that long for go-to equipment to become usable. The insulation will keep the building at a temperature just warm enough to keep the equipment ready for use.
Councilman Loveys asked about the expense for the building insulation. Mr. Sweeney informed him that they are requesting $16K; the building is 5400 sq ft and has 8 bay doors. Councilman Loveys asked if the bay doors would be insulated as well. Mr. Sweeney informed him that he believed the doors were insulated; however, the area around them required insulation.
Councilman Tkacs asked if the insulation would be sprayed. Mr. Sweeney explained how the insulation process for the building would work.
Mr. Sweeney reported the following on Capital Improvements:
- Replace Pickup #902—the budget request is to replace the 2014 Ford F350 with 91K miles. The vehicle will be taken off main line and used for part-time plow drivers. This will avoid costly repairs and follow the seven year vehicle replacement plan.
- Replace Pickup #904—the budget request is to replace the 2014 Ford F350 with 95K miles. The vehicle be taken off main line and used for part-time plow drivers. This will avoid costly repairs and follow the seven year vehicle replacement plan. Both vehicle replacements will be purchased through the MCCPC Co-op.
Councilwoman Veech asked for more information regarding the part-time snow plow drivers. Mr. Sweeney informed her that the township has a pool of part-time snow plow drivers, many of whom are retired employees and retired police officers. He explained that they drive small trucks that do not require commercial licenses; they serve as back up to the department and are an asset.
- Compact Loader with attachments and Trailer—will enable the department to maintain vegetative growth in township retention basins to be compliant with DEP regulations. Rubber tracks on the loader enable it to go into soggy locations, making it less likely to get stuck when working in those areas. The loader attachments can mow high over grown grass and small trees. The combination bucket will enable the department to load and remove tree debris and logs from basin. The trailer will be used to transport the loader and its attachments.
Mayor Forstenhausler commented that this piece of equipment could also be useful for the township trails.
Councilwoman Veech asked if the cost for the compact loader included the cost of the trailer. Mr. Sweeney confirmed that the cost of the trailer was included, in addition to four attachments. In the future multiple attachments for different uses could be purchased.
Councilman Loveys asked when the department would actually conduct the basin work, as they have discussed identifying and upgrading the basins for years. Mr. Sweeney informed him that in 2020 the primary focus was on the identification of the basins. He explained that to precede with the process of completing the basin work the requested equipment was required. He continued to explain the how the equipment will be used to maintain the basins.
Councilman Loveys asked if the neglected conditions of the basins required DEP permits and if the basins were considered manmade wetlands. Mr. Sweeney informed Councilman Loveys that Wayne Corsey would likely be able to answer his question. He explained that his department was largely focusing on maintenance of the areas.
Manager Mountain informed Councilman Loveys that the DEP does tend to over reach by turning manmade areas into larger projects. To the best of his knowledge the DEP does consider catch basins as being manmade. He stated that the townships efforts in trying to get the DEP to recognize them as easement areas instead of waterways has been challenging, and explained the difficulties that come with the permit process, easements, DEP requirements, and project expenses; a short discussion followed.
Councilman Nisivoccia commended Mr. Sweeney for his work and for keeping his staff safe. The remaining Council members echoed his comments.
2. Water & Sewer/General Engineering—Wayne Corsey
Wayne Corsey reviewed the operating expenses for Engineering and Water & Sewer with the Council. He also reviewed his Capital Improvement budget request for 2021.
- Engineering—consultant, tree removal, and New Jersey Department of Environmental Protection (DEP) stormwater regulations/fees remain relatively unchanged.
- Tree Removal Replacement—in 2019 Tree King removed 38 trees that were too large for the DPW to handle. In 2020, 45 trees were removed. The department projects that they will remove 60 trees in 2021. The department met with Manager Mountain, Darren Maloney and Tom Sweeney to discuss the development of a tree replacement program.
Councilman Nisivoccia asked Mr. Corsey if he knew how many trees needed to be taken down across the township. Mr. Corsey informed him that there were many trees. The township is responsible for maintaining the trees that are in the right of way or located on township land. He explained that his department was working on developing an inventory of the trees so they can budget for the process accordingly.
Manager Mountain estimated that the number of trees was likely in the 500 range. He added that the estimation included older trees that were damaged by storms. He also informed the Council that not all the trees being removed would affect the budget as JCP&L is likely to work on some.
Mr. Corsey added that there were many trees in the town that are in the right of way as well as near electric work that the department reports to JCP&L to handle because those trees are likely to affect their facilities. If JCP&L rejects the report the tree is the township’s burden. He referenced the DPW’s bucket truck, stating that it has increased the township’s ability to take out trees in certain conditions and will save the township money.
Deputy Mayor Potter asked for more information on tree replacement. Mr. Corsey explained that it is a program the township is developing to replace trees that have been removed from certain areas with a variety of tree species to create a semblance of the trees that were removed. He also shared that they were developing a rating system, similar to the ones they developed for the roads and the stormwater systems, to assess trees.
Mayor Forstenhausler asked where the replacement trees would be planted once the older trees are removed by the DPW. Mr. Corsey explained that in the case of street trees, the department would be relocating their replacements behind the sidewalk as opposed to their current location between the curb and sidewalk; doing so will prevent future issues with completing street work such as snow clearing and sidewalk maintenance. Manager Mountain informed Mayor Forstenhausler that the township would be mapping out the replacements to determine what variety of trees can go where.
Councilman Nisivoccia asked about JCP&L’s responsiveness to cutting down trees in the township. Manager Mountain informed him that they have generally been good with responding to trees near electrical work. He shared that there were instances where the township reported trees in the right of way and near wiring work to JCP&L; in those cases, they pushed back due to the size of the trees and issues with their equipment. Otherwise, the township notifies JCP&L of trees near wires, and they agree to take them down.
- Stormwater Management—over the past two years, the DPW has been able to inspect many of the township basins to understand what their conditions are. Many of the basins were neglected and require repair and maintenance to operate more efficiently. The department has mapped out the stormwater system and has created an ongoing inventory, in addition to working on developing a rating system to attain a hierarchy of the basins in worse to best condition. This will help them better assess how to allocate money and determine if the DPW can do the work or if they need to hire out.
Deputy Mayor Potter asked about a maintenance note regarding mine shafts on the stormwater basin inventory list. Mr. Corsey informed her that there are mine shafts all over town, some of which are evident, some not so. The note was for the individuals going out to the area for basin work. Deputy Mayor Potter asked if the township identified where mine shafts were located as departments come across them while out in the field. Manager Mountain informed her that if we are aware of the area mine shafts are located or come across a new area they would be noted. The mine shafts are mainly located in areas where the public would not be wandering around.
Councilwoman Veech asked what the township’s responsibility was in relation to the two developer-owned basins depicted on the Stormwater System Map. Mr. Corsey responded that many of the basins in town were originally developer-owned and later transitioned over to the township; though there was never formal documentation. Manager Mountain added that the developers in some cases are no longer around.
Deputy Mayor Potter asked if there was any grant money available for the basin work as it must be a common problem for many municipalities. Manager Mountain informed her that there is no grant, although there should be; the DEP has many requirements and is not very flushed with money to offer assistance with this area, there are loans available, but that is not what the township is looking for. He added that the township is in a better position than other smaller municipalities because of our many resources, and ability to find the money and manpower required for the work.
Councilwoman Veech asked what is required of the developers to meet state guidelines for the basins as additions to the basin map will continue with affordable housing development construction. Manager Mountain informed her that as a part of the application process, developers are required to demonstrate that they can meet the required basin specifications for their construction. The township’s engineering department will conduct inspections to make sure the facilities are up to standard. Once they are in the conditions they are supposed to be in the basins will be added to the township’s stormwater basin inventory.
Councilman Loveys referenced the developments mentioned by Councilwoman Veech. He asked if the stormwater management plans would be assigned from developers to the Home Owners Association at the transition. He asked why Randolph took ownership of the basins. Manager Mountain stated that he could not explain the historic reason; he suspected that the Planning Board deemed it so because the basins would typically get ignored by Home Owners Associations. They briefly discussed the enforcement.
Deputy Mayor Potter asked if once the township gets through this endeavor, would there be any opportunities to offer shared services to smaller neighboring municipalities. Manager Mountain informed her that there is a possibility to consider it once they get caught up on the township work and have a system in place.
- Water & Sewer—upgrades and maintenance on pump stations have continued. With the requested equipment the department will be able to do the work in-house. The department is continuing to try to develop an annual maintenance contract for the stations.
- Annual Maintenance Contract—in the process of developing for the pump stations.
- DEP—continues to hand out regulations; they are in the process of developing an assessment plan.
Councilman Loveys asked about the number of water towers in the township. Mr. Corsey informed him that there are two water towers located in Randolph; he explained that one tower is owned by the township, and the other is owned by the county.
Councilman Loveys asked about the maintenance on the water tower and inquired about how the improvement expenses were being projected. Manager Mountain explained that the smaller sum in the Capital Outlay was to be used for intermediate maintenance that can buy the tower a few more years; the larger sum is being reserved for a major update on the tower.
Councilwoman Veech asked about the leak that happened years ago at the CCM pump station. Mr. Corsey informed her that the pump station was prone to leakage; to stop the waste of water the township installed a master meter in the area. Councilwoman Veech asked if there were any other known areas of major leaks. Mr. Corsey informed her that the stations have good leak and protection service; typically, as soon as the department finds out about the leak, it is resolved. When leaks occur on private properties residents are informed and asked to make repairs.
Mr. Corsey reported the following on Capital Improvements:
- Replace 2006 Dump Truck—this truck has been used continuously and is shared by the DPW; it needs to be retired. The Water & Sewer Department typically uses this truck for water main breaks, material transport, etc.
Mayor Forstenhausler asked if the department planned to keep the old dump truck. Manager Mountain stated that they would assess its use and probably keep it around for a year or two; the maintenance history of the vehicle has been costly so that decision will be discussed further.
- Replace2005 Excavator—the excavator is also shared by the DPW; it has been serviced well but is starting to require repairs more frequently.
Mayor Forstenhausler asked if the expense for the new excavator could come out of the sewer budget. Manager Mountain informed him that it does come out of the sewer budget.
Councilman Loveys wanted to confirm if the Water & Sewer Department would have first use of the excavator, and that there were no issues with lending it to the DPW. Mr. Corsey confirmed he was correct.
- Water Hydrants Replacement—the department has been working to replace many of the older water hydrants in the township. This past year they have replaced ten old hydrants near Misty Mountain Drive area. The program consists of a contractor coming in and completing the work.
Mayor Forstenhausler commented that the new hydrants have updated connections. Mr. Corsey reviewed the components of the hydrants.
- Sewer Emergent Repairs—the department has a bit of a carry over budget from water emergent repairs, so they are not requesting additional funding for this item.
There was a brief discussion on paved access roads.
Mr. Corsey reported the following on Capital Outlay:
- Water Meter Replacement—the department is working on updating all the old water meters in town in residential and private properties.
- Water Tank Painting—a few contractors came to the township to provide pricing for a water tank power wash. He was informed that parts of the tank showed signs of rust and deterioration. The contractors suggested doing a power wash and applying an epoxy coating to give the tank a protective shell that can extend its life by 5 years.
Mayor Forstenhausler asked if work would be done on the inside of the tank. Mr. Corsey informed him that the contractors inspected the inside of the tank in 2012; they determined that the tank was fine internally. Every year the tank’s technology is inspected by a contracted company as well.
Deputy Mayor Potter asked what would happen if the tank failed. Mr. Corsey informed her that in the worst case scenario if something were to happen to the water tank valves would be shut off. She asked if residents would not have access to water if that occurred. Mr. Corsey informed her that the tank helps maintain water pressure and is used as a holding tank, water would still be provided to the residents because the system is always fed from a source.
Councilwoman Veech asked about the life on the tank. Mr. Corsey informed her that if it was maintained appropriately it could last 50 plus years. Manager Mountain shared that the tank is still evaluated as mint condition. Mr. Corsey added that the work they are currently doing on the tank is superficial and not structural.
- Water Tower Fence—in 2020 the department had an estimate for this item, however the original cost has increased. The department is requesting an additional $6K for this item. The tank is in a wooded area and located near trail systems; the fence will replace damaged areas of fencing caused by downed trees, and prevent people from wandering in.
Councilman Loveys commented on the hard work demonstrated by the Water & Sewer department. He asked Mr. Corsey to extend the Council’s appreciation for the department’s efforts. Mr. Corsey stated that he inherited a great department and commended the work of the department staff and work crews.
F. OPEN TO THE PUBLIC
Seeing and hearing none, the public session was closed.
G. COUNCIL COMMENTS
Deputy Mayor Potter thanked the township staff for maintaining the budget so that there were no increases for the year. She added that the services outlined looked amazing.
Councilwoman Carey commended the work that went into preparing the budget.
Councilman Loveys stated that he looked forward to the rest of the presentations.
Councilwoman Veech asked if the diverse nature of our staff was something that came up at some point for discussion during the town’s hiring process. Manager Mountain informed her that the township’s hiring practices were open. When hiring someone the township looks for the best-qualified applicant no matter gender, ethnicity, or cultural background. He stated that he is not a proponent of hiring for the objective of creating diversity as that puts the focus in the wrong area. The applicant pool should be diverse, and the best-qualified person from that pool is the person hired. He explained that all of the township’s advertisements are put out globally. He would like to see more diversity in the applicant pool; it isn’t always there, but it is not for lack of efficiently getting out the word. He concluded his response by stating that the township does look for it and tries to create a diverse environment.
Councilman Nisivoccia thanked Manager Mountain and Clerk Luciani for preparing the accommodations that allowed the Council to attend this meeting in person; he believed it made a big difference to conduct the budget meetings in this way. He thanked Manager Mountain and Darren Maloney for preparing this budget; especially in a time when many residents are feeling the financial strain. He concluded by thanking all of the township’s professionals, all of whom were held to no increases this year.
Mayor Forstenhausler echoed Councilman Nisivoccia’s comments. He thanked Manager Mountain and Darren Maloney for their work and stated that he looked forward to hearing the rest of the presentations. He agreed with Councilman Nisivoccia’s statement that it was beneficial to conduct budget meetings in person.
H. EXECUTIVE SESSION
No Executive Session was held for this meeting.
Councilwoman Carey made a motion to adjourn the meeting at 12:10 pm. Councilman Nisivoccia seconded the motion, and the following roll call vote was taken:
AYES: Councilwoman Carey Councilman Loveys Councilman Nisivoccia Councilman Tkacs Councilwoman Veech Deputy Mayor Potter Mayor Forstenhausler